Feds cut LaGuardia flights

December 22, 2008 3:40:51 PM PST
Federal aviation authorities on Monday said they are trying to cut the number of flights at LaGuardia Airport in an effort to reduce congestion at the airport with the highest incidence of delays in the country. U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced the government will lower the cap on flights at LaGuardia from 75 to 71 per hour. But the cap is strictly voluntary, and requires participation by the three top airlines at the airport - Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and US Airways.

The airlines have 10 days to comment on the proposal. If approved, the new hourly flight quota will take effect in April and end Oct. 24.

In a conference call after the announcement, Dept. of Transportation General Counsel D.J. Gribbin said he has indications that there is "strong support from at least one carrier and interest from the others."

"The odds that we get the cap are relatively high," he said.

Gribbin said the move could reduce delays by as much as 41 percent and save $178 million in costs.

LaGuardia is the smallest of the three major airports serving the New York City area. Newark Liberty International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport both already have caps, set at about 83 flights per hour, Gribbin said.

LaGuardia ranks last among the 32 major U.S. airports in on-time arrival performance, according to the Transportation Department. The Bush administration had sought to auction off some flight slots at New York City airports in an experimental effort to reduce delays nationwide, but that plan was stayed by a judge after strong opposition from airlines and industry groups.

"Our hands have been somewhat tied, but we are trying to do the things that we can to relieve congestion and give relief to travelers next summer," Gribbin said.

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